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Women Came Away From Our Event With Hope... Now We Need Action

10/03/2017 15:43 GMT | Updated 10/03/2017 15:43 GMT
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Last weekend, as I co-chaired Britain's first ever Jewish/Muslim conference with my 'Muslim sister' Julie Siddiqi, I saw the efforts of so many of us starting to come to fruition.

When Julie and I launched the Jewish/Muslim women's group Nisa-Nashim around 18 months ago - against a growing backdrop of intolerance and mistrust both in society, and also our own communities - we couldn't have imagined how fast it would grow.

There are now 17 groups around the UK, covering all regions and led by determined Jewish and Muslim co-chairs, most of whom didn't even know each other a few short months ago.

But it was bringing everyone together - along with powerful female speakers and presenters including clergy, authors, activists, journalists and company executives - that showed me how much we have achieved... yet how much we have left to do.

Women came away from the conference buzzing and feeling, at last, like they had a forum with a strong voice, which they could own.

Pledging to live up to the event's title of 'challenging the narrative', the women pinned a series of vows on a 'promise wall'. These included promising to learn more about each other's faiths, share tears of joy and sorrow, fight all forms of hatred and always be their 'sister's keeper'.

Now we have a big challenge on our hands. How do we live up to those promises? How do we keep that feeling of empowerment and optimism alive? Most importantly, how can we turn our talk into actions?

One thought, which came through again and again, was that we don't just stand for ourselves, we stand for each other.

Expressed differently, we heard that "my story is your story, and your story is my story". Togetherness, shared values and shared responsibility were key themes of the day.

One of our panellists commented that whilst she met people she knew at the event, much more exciting for all us was how many people she met who were new.

By doing things differently, by working through friendship, and by reaching out to people who don't normally engage, we brought new, brave women to the table.

The intention now is to go on, together, to reach out to thousands more women, then to our children, and crucially, to even those people who don't want to hear us.

We will do whatever we can to challenge ignorance, to introduce a positive narrative and to demonstrate that, in the spirit of International Women's Day, we can Be Bold for Change.

* To find our more about Nisa-Nashim, please visit www.nisanashim.org